Dennis Byrd, NFL inspiration who overcame paralysis, killed in car crash

Remembering Dennis Byrd. Photo credit: New York Jets.
Remembering Dennis Byrd. Photo credit: New York Jets.

- Dennis Byrd, the former New York Jets defensive lineman whose NFL career was ended by a paralyzing neck injury, was killed Saturday in a car accident near Claremore, Oklahoma. He was 51.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Byrd was killed in a two-car crash on State Highway 88. According to the patrol, a 17-year-old driver veered a Ford Explorer into the oncoming lane, striking Byrd's 2004 Hummer H2. The crash happened at about 11:15 a.m. Saturday.

Byrd was pronounced dead at the scene. The 17-year-old driver of the Ford and a 12-year-old passenger in Byrd's Hummer were taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa in critical condition.

NFL injury

Dennis Byrd broke the C-5 vertebra in his neck and was briefly paralyzed in a collision with teammate Scott Mersereau during a game on Nov. 29, 1992, against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was unable to walk for several weeks, but underwent rehab and became an inspiration the next season when he walked to midfield as an honorary Jets captain.

Byrd wrote a book called "Rise and Walk" about his journey through rehab and the role of faith and family in his remarkable recovery. His story was later made into a TV movie, starring Peter Berg.

Each NFL season, a New York Jets player is selected to receive the Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Player award.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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